Influential pastor Tony Evans warned that “our anxiety, worry, and fear is outpacing the problem of the virus.”
“Worry and fear have a way of transferring very quickly from to other people,” Evans, senior pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas, said in a sermon on Sunday.
"I think that’s what’s happening with this virus. The virus is not the only thing that transfers quickly. Our anxiety, worry, and fear is outpacing the problem of the virus because it’s consumed the mind, the heart, the energy and the emotions of our selves, our families, the whole nation and even the world.”
Evans offered two words to those mired in fear and anxiety: Don’t worry.
“That comes from Jesus,” he said, citing Matthew 6:25-34, where Jesus says “don’t worry” three times.
“Stop it,” the bestselling speaker and author stressed. “You say, ‘How practical is that given all that we’re facing the unknowns, the crisis the expansion, the speed, the sickness? Is that a practical expectation of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ? Well, yes it is, because He commands us not to do it.”
Christians have a “legitimate right for legitimate concern,” Evans said, but added, “what we don’t have the right to do is worry.”
“What worry is concern gone haywire,” the Urban Alternative founder said. “God does not expect us not to deal with reality. If you’re sick, you’re sick. If you’re struggling, you’re struggling. But that’s different than worry. Concern you own; worry owns you.”
Evans argued that what began as concern is now causing us to “tremble” due to the onslaught of negative headlines and ever-changing statistics.
“It can draw you from legitimate concern from which you should act responsibly to illegitimate worry,” he said.
“Many people believe in God and still worry because they have little faith,” Evans said, citing Matthew 8:26, where Jesus rebukes those of “little faith.”
“The size of your faith is tied to the size of your God,” he explained. “When you shrink God, you automatically shrink faith. So if you and I have little faith, it’s because we’re operating with a small understanding and view of God.”
The way to get more faith and overcome worry is through “expanding your understanding, view of, and submission to God.”
“The best way I can help you to work through this crisis ... is to grow God in your understanding, in your experience, and in your focus,” he stressed, "because when we grow Him, your faith will grow with it and your worry will shrink and become responsible concern.”
Far too many Christians believe in a God they “don’t understand as a father,” Evans noted, adding that it’s important to view “God as a father when it comes to not worrying.”
“This father cares for you. When you come to look at Him this way, understand Him this way, relate to Him this way, you begin to experience God the daddy and not just God the creator,” he said. “God will keep you calm even in a drought, even in a virus. So I want you to calm down, look at your family members right now who are seated with you and say, ‘Don’t worry.’”
Evans advised using handwashing time — a measure recommended by health officials to slow the spread of COVID-19 — as “prayer time.”
“You always know when you’re supposed to pray because it’s connected to when you’re tempted to be a worrier,” he said. “If you’re going to wash your hands all day long, talk to your daddy all day long, and get your growing focus on God who is able to calm your fears.”
While we “ought to be concerned” about the coronavirus and make “wise decisions” about physical distancing, Evans said, “you don’t live in panic when you know you have a heavenly Father.”
“If you want to calm down and stay calm ... then here’s what you do: Seek ye first the Kingdom of God,” the pastor said, adding that the coronavirus is a “great opportunity” to choose faith over fear.
There are at least 125,093 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the U.S. and at least 2,149 deaths as of March 29, according to the New York Times database.
In a previous interview with The Christian Post, Evans highlighted the importance of trusting in a good God “even when He doesn’t make sense.” The pastor shared how his faith has sustained him through a “tough” year in which he lost his father and his wife and ministry partner, Lois.
“Sometimes you have to learn to trust God in the dark when there is not clarity, when He becomes inscrutable. You have to have enough foundation before that happens to weather the storm when that happens.”
Trusting God when it doesn’t make sense, Evans said, is a “decision of the will.”
“It's often not supported by the emotions because you're not feeling what you're trusting,” he explained. “It’s a decision to act like God is telling the truth, to act like God knows what He is doing. That’s what we choose to do and continue to choose to do day by day.”
“It’s important to not give up on God when life appears to have given up on you. It's easy to trust God when everything is right, blessings are flowing, prayers are being answered, needs are being met. That's the fun part of the faith. But sometimes, you have to trust God when you don’t see the benefits, the blessings, and all the frills of the faith.”